A seven-year collaboration between one of the nation's most passionate conservationists, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, and three of the most successful golfers in the history of the sport has resulted in the creation of a spectacular new golf course that will now host one of golf's most beloved events.
The Champions Tour's newly-named Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops, a two-man team competition conducted over 54 holes, will be played June 2-8, 2014 on the resort's Par-3 Top of the Rock course, designed by Jack Nicklaus and the 18-hole Buffalo Ridge Course (formally Branson Creek GC), freshly redesigned by Tom Fazio. The tournament, which debuted in 1978, was held in Savannah, Ga., the past 11 years. This will be the first PGA TOUR - sanctioned event to use a Par-3 Course in official competition.
Top of the Rock, a nature-based heritage preserve created by Morris, also features an Arnold Palmer - designed practice facility with 18 target greens and the remarkable 70,000 square-foot "Himalayan" putting course designed by Tom Watson.
The announcement was made during a press conference at Big Cedar Lodge that featured Missouri Governor Jay Nixon; PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem; Morris, Founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops and owner of Big Cedar Lodge; and Watson, a World Golf Hall of Fame member and Missouri native. In addition to Big Cedar Lodge, the State of Missouri, Bass Pro Shops and MasterCard will be sponsors of the tournament. Champions Tour member John Cook was also in attendance.
Jack Nicklaus was unable to attend the press conference, but sent a video message to be included in the announcement. The Golden Bear applauded the choice of including a par-3 course in an official Champions Tour event.
"Big Cedar Lodge should be a wonderful host site for the tournament and I look forward to seeing how Top of the Rock is received by some of the best players in today's game," Nicklaus said.
"Johnny Morris has been very passionate during the development of the course, and we're pleased with the golf experience created. I hope my friends and fellow pros on Tour will find it to be an enjoyable test of golf."
"The Legends of Golf and Champions Tour both share a history of being innovative and engaging properties, and that legacy will certainly continue here at Big Cedar Lodge with the introduction of a Par-3 golf course in official competition," Finchem said. "If there was ever a Par-3 course worthy of PGA TOUR tournament play, Top of the Rock is it. It truly is an outstanding venue and a wonderful complement to the newly redesigned Buffalo Ridge course. We believe the inclusion of this dramatic short course will demonstrate to a time-crunched world that par-3 golf is fun, entertaining, and a worthy alternative for golfers. We thank Johnny Morris, Governor Nixon, and MasterCard for their support of this popular event and are excited to present a refreshing new concept to our players and fans."
The field will feature two divisions for players age 50-65 and 65 and older. Following Friday and Saturday rounds at Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock, all contestants will play at Top of the Rock in the final round. Eligibility will be announced in the near future. The total purse will be $2.75 million.
World Golf Hall of Fame members including Nicklaus, Watson, Hale Irwin, Gary Player and Lee Trevino have already indicated they will play in the event. Other World Golf Hall of Fame members who actively compete on the Champions Tour include: Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Tom Kite, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Larry Nelson, Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Curtis Strange.
"We're very pleased to announce the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf," Morris said. "We thank and welcome all the great partners that have made this event possible - and are especially honored to salute a great institution in America, the College of the Ozarks, also known as 'Hard Work U,' as the key beneficiary for the event. Top of the Rock offers a one-of-a-kind experience and I'm very proud that I had the opportunity to work closely alongside golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnie Palmer and many other talented Ozarks craftsmen to create something special for golfers everywhere. More and more, people are becoming aware of all our beautiful Ozarks region has to offer including world-class fishing, nature and golf."
Buffalo Ridge has been rated the Number One Public Golf Course in Missouri by GOLF Magazine and has been named one of the Top 10 Missouri Courses by Golf Digest for 11 consecutive years. This event will showcase the course for the first time since a major renovation directed by Fazio and Morris. The course will highlight the beautiful Ozarks nature and bring players in contact with fields of native grasses and free-ranging buffalo relocated from nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
"Today's announcement that the Legends of Golf is coming to Missouri is great news for this region and for our state," Gov. Nixon said. "Home to a rich array of outdoor recreational opportunities, Missouri is the ideal location for this world-class competition. We look forward to hosting Champions Tour players and fans and showcasing Missouri's many attractions during this outstanding event."
"At Big Cedar Lodge you have all the elements to make the Legends of Golf a unique tournament and to show fans that golf, even for professionals at the highest level, doesn't have to be played on long, 18-hole courses," Watson said. "I'm proud to have lent a hand in the creation of such a special place and am enthusiastic about Top of the Rock and hope this innovative approach will inspire new golfers, who have limited time on their hands, to take up the game. Families and kids barely have time to consider golf, but a nine-hole par-3 course is a perfect option to get started in the game."
An important and unique component of the Big Cedar Legends tournament is that it will have two pro-am days featuring multiple sporting events including golf, shooting, archery, and fishing with Legends from these sports scheduled to compete as well. Top of the Rock is also home to world class dining, and Arnie's Barn — a classic 150-year-old barn that was moved from Latrobe, Pa. to Top of the Rock by skilled artisans, is now a stunning restaurant, bar, and pro shop.
The Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf signifies two PGA TOUR-sanctioned events in Missouri in 2014, with the Web.com Tour's Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr. Pepper, one of four original events on that Tour, being played for the 25th consecutive year at Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Mo., August 4-10.
The Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf will be televised on Golf Channel, the exclusive cable provider of the Champions Tour.